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Daily News Blog

27
Mar

Judge Rules EPA Violated Pesticide Rules in Delaying Protections for Farmworker Children

(Beyond Pesticides, March 27, 2018) In a major win for farmworker and health groups, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled last Wednesday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) illegally delayed implementation of key pesticide rules that in part prevent minors from working with the most dangerous pesticides. The rule revised rules mandate pesticide applicators be at least 18 years old. According to the EPA, there are about one million certified applicators nationwide. Before delaying implementation, the agency said the revised rule could prevent some 1,000 acute poisonings every year.

In addition to requiring applicators to be at least 18-years-old, the revised 2017 Certification of Pesticide Applicators (CPA) rule also improves the quality of training materials and says certified pesticide applicators must be able to read and understand the instructions. The main purpose of the CPA rule is to protect workers and the public from poisonings, by ensuring that those who handle the most dangerous pesticides are properly trained and certified.

“We commend the court for recognizing that this important pesticide safeguard is needed to prevent injury to farmworkers and the public,” said Stacey Geis, Earthjustice managing attorney. “This ruling puts EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on notice that the courts are going to be scrutinizing any rule that reduces health protections for farmworkers.”

Just a few days ago EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt received a letter from twenty-eight U.S. Senators urging the preservation of rules that would protect farmworkers and disallow minors to handle highly toxic pesticides. In their letter, the Senators stress the impact of any potential changes, noting “the lives of children and families across the country at stake.”

After years of reviews, EPA published the revised CPA Rule in the last days of the Obama Administration, updating for the first time in years how applicators of restricted use pesticides, or RUPs, are certified. RUPs are the most toxic and dangerous pesticides on the market and can cause serious injury or death if they are improperly handled. But the then incoming Trump Administration quickly and quietly delayed the rule, while providing the public only four days to comment on the delay.

The move prompted health and farmworker organizations represented by Earthjustice and Farmworker Justice to file suit on behalf of Farmworker Association of Florida, United Farm Workers, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, and Pesticide Action Network North America. “Our case was clear. There is no justification for delaying common-sense measures to prevent pesticide poisonings and deaths,” said Virginia Ruiz, director of occupational and environmental health at Farmworker Justice. “EPA’s blatant violation of the law jeopardizes public health.”

In its ruling, the court noted that before the delay, EPA made numerous findings of the inadequacy of the old regulations as they relate to RUPs, as well as the threat RUPs posed to people, particularly farmworkers. The judge also sent a strong message to the EPA by rejecting all the agency’s delays for failing to properly notify the public, and allow for comments. The court declared the original March 6, 2017, date as the effective date, making its ruling effective immediately. The ruling comes three months after the EPA said it wants to revise crucial parts of the CPA rule, and its sister set of guidelines, the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard. It’s still unclear when the EPA will open the proposed changes for public comments.

Without proper enforcement and oversight, applicators, their clients, and the environment will be at risk. While striving to minimize adverse impact from pesticide use, stricter applicator standards are only one part of the solution. Instead of delaying important applicator standards, EPA must reduce the overall approval, sale, and use of pesticides that are proven to be hazardous to human and environmental health, and for which there are safer alternatives, keeping with its mandate that these products pose no unreasonable adverse effects on people and the environment.

Congressional pushback is critical in stopping an agenda that has aimed to eliminate farmworker protections, slash EPA staff, and keep highly toxic pesticides with known health risks on the market. Thank you to those that have already asked their Congressmembers to protect AWPS and CPA. Continue to keep the pressure up by sending a letter to your Congressional delegation today.

Source: PANNA News Release

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